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Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Knick 2.1: Playing off Our Present

The Knick was back for its second season on Cinemax last night.   As was the case last year, the New York 19th-into-20th century cinematography was just perfect.   I mean, I obviously didn't see any of that first hand, but I have a fair number of photographs in my collection from that era, and have seen many more, and this movie-like television show captures the textures just right.

The details are on key, too.   One of Edison's cameras, a horseless carriage ambulance, and of course the medical procedures all fit in like glittering parts of an historic mosaic come to life.   The medical parts of course are the soul of the show. They speak an irrepressible optimism in progress and the success of science, which we also saw last season, and which is sadly lacking or at least tarnished, at least among the general public, right now. We go to doctors, submit to procedures, are admitted to hospitals, but we have a little less confidence in our doctors than people did over a century ago, even though our procedures are so much more advanced.   But back then there was a sense - best portrayed by Thackery,  but others including Edwards have it, too - that they can cure anything, if it's a disease or malady.

Thackery makes this point eloquently at the end of the episode, with his realization that if he considers his addiction an illness rather than a craving, he can find a cure.  And Edwards yearns for a treatment for his detached retina, after his physician tells him there's not much that established medicine can do for it.  But given that this is 1901, and we're watching in 2015, you just know that something will come up - even though, given that this is drama, we also just know that it may not work.

The morality in flux also continues to play a major role.  Edwards is subject to racism, though some of his white colleagues have seen the light of equality.  The nun who performed abortions is in prison, and condemned by one of her sisters, her former student.   We in 2015 know that history is on their side - though it moves forward exceedingly slowly.   And it is from our very age, the present we inhabit, that The Knick derives its ultimate power.  We in the future are the foundation upon which The Knick bounces off and builds upon.

Part medical history, part historical and current social commentary, altogether unique and captivating, The Knick is vert much welcome back.

See also The Knick: Paean to Scientific Method ... The Knick Sneak Preview Review 1.8: Good Loving, the Fix, and Typhoid Mary ... The Knick Sneak Preview Review 1.9: Sacrifice ... The Knick 1.10 Sneak Preview Review: Fallibility

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